Time of Growth at Minnesota Jewish Community Foundation

This article is sponsored content Minneapolis Jewish Federation as part of TC Jewfolk’s Partnership program. For more information, check out our media kit.

For nearly 50 years, the Jewish Community Foundation of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation served the planned giving and endowment function of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation. It has helped build long-term charitable security for our Jewish community, including weathering the storm of pandemic uncertainty.

About a year ago, the Federation Board of Directors voted to create MN JCF as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Federation and rebrand as the Minnesota Jewish Community Foundation (MN JCF).

Why the change? With more than 1,000 funds and $165 million assets under management at the time, the Board wanted to safeguard and protect the charitable assets of individuals, families, and local Jewish organizations in a legal manner. However, “very little will be different in our donors’ and the public’s interaction with MN JCF,” says James Cohen, CEO of both MN JCF and Federation. MN JCF has an operating agreement with Federation to provide the day-to-day management of MN JCF. There is also now a separate Board of Governors, including members from the Federation Board and general community members.

It seems to be a hidden treasure that MN JCF facilitates incredible collective philanthropic impact on behalf of our Jewish community. Since its inception in the 1970s, MN JCF has helped fund holders make a global impact by supporting their giving to Jewish and non-Jewish organizations across Minnesota and around the world. In 2021, the MN JCF helped its fund holders collectively distribute $8.3 million. Nearly 74 percent was designated for Jewish organizations, including almost 10 percent of donors utilizing their invested funds to support the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s annual Community Campaign. Even more incredible is the impact Federation and the MN JCF have together, with over $19 million going directly to the Jewish community in 2021.

Regardless of MN JCF and Federation working hand-in-hand for decades, many people in the community are not aware of MN JCF or what it does for the community.

What exactly does the MN JCF do?

”We make giving easy, personalized, and streamlined, and will continue to provide donors the highest level of personal and timely customer service by people who know them, what they value, and their philanthropic goals,” said Alene G. Sussman, MN JCF executive director. Their charitable dollars are invested in the market for long-term growth so they have more money to give away. We also provide a suite of services in support of your giving, from family philanthropy guidance to finding causes to which to give, to handling the investments, and more.”

New this year has been a focus on family philanthropy. In partnership with 21/64 (a nationally recognized nonprofit firm providing multigenerational advising, facilitation, and training around philanthropy) and Amplifier (powered by the Jewish Federations of North America), MN JCF has provided workshops and tools to help donors identify the Jewish values that impact their giving, have conversations with family members about giving, and instilling a sense of meaning, pride, and legacy with their tzedakah.

MN JCF also recently switched up how they do investments. With a dedicated cadre of volunteers who are members of the local Jewish community and have a variety of business and professional expertise relating to the investment world, MN JCF’s investment committee oversees all investment management, development, and stewardship of the assets of MN JCF. As part of those responsibilities, the committee oversees the MN JCF’s new outsourced chief investment officer, SEI Investments, which professionally manages MN JCF’s assets day-to-day — part of the trillion dollars of assets under SEI’s management. They support many institutional clients, including multiple Federations and other Jewish community foundations, bringing a great deal of experience to bear.

As with any community foundation, MN JCF serves multiple constituencies. First, it provides a variety of tools through which individuals and families may support their favorite organizations here and around the world. MN JCF offers a variety of funds — including donor-advised funds (DAF), which is essentially charitable investment account. This allows donors to contribute to their fund as frequently as they like, receive tax benefits every time they add money, then make grants to causes and organizations they value whenever they want to. In addition to DAFs, MN JCF offers Genesis Mitzvah Funds (aka, junior DAFs) for young givers, endowment funds that allow people to support the Federation’s annual Campaign, and other favorite non-profits and programs, including synagogues, human service organizations, schools, Jewish camp scholarships, PJ Library, Israel, education, and more. The best part is that MN JCF does all the work.

“MN JCF is a one-stop shop for your philanthropy. Acting as your back-office, we save you time by doing the administration of the fund for you,” said MN JCF President Ken Raskin. We take care of all investing, accounting, reporting, research, and grant distributions, and maintain records of all transactions, so you can focus on enjoying your kids, grandkids, and feeling good about your philanthropy. Our mantra is ‘Giving. Your Way.’”

Non-profits also can invest their endowment dollars at MN JCF, like 17 local Jewish organizations currently do, totaling nearly $35 million of the MN JCF’s assets. It supports non-profits by investing and administering their funds, so they have a perpetual stream of financial support for their operating budgets and programming. MN JCF lifts the administrative burden off the non-profit staff’s shoulders so they can focus more on their mission, shares funding opportunities with MN JCF fund holders who may be interested in financially supporting their work and provides resources and advising to nonprofit partners that help them raise their endowment funds.

Lastly, MN JCF also serves professional advisors, from the Twin Cities accounting, legal, and financial services industries, by providing continuing education and support to have or elevate philanthropic conversations about their clients’ charitable giving and legacy plans. This is done through MN JCF’s affinity group called the Network of Philanthropic Advisors, which plans to run its workshop series for its third cohort in 2023. Topics of sessions include: the philanthropic landscape, philanthropy in your practice, how to read signs of your client’s charitable intent, multi-generational family meetings, and more.

These constituencies and services roll up to a holistic philanthropic approach, spearheaded by Federation and MN JCF’s new Chief Philanthropy Officer, Steven Baker. When he started in early 2022, one of Baker’s main priorities became leading a team of philanthropic officers who work with donors, affinity groups, and non-profit partners across the Jewish community in all their philanthropy, not siloed or segmented to one agency or cause.

“Our role is to serve as philanthropic advisors to sustain and grow our entire Jewish community, and the role of MN JCF is a key component of that moving forward,” said Baker.

The $5K Donor-Advised Fund

MN JCF continues to ensure that philanthropy through MN JCF is for everyone. This includes people of all ages and income levels feeling good about supporting their Jewish community, both locally and abroad. This inclusive thinking brought on a new initiative to spark philanthropy: people under 45 years old or a Jewish communal professional may open a donor-advised fund for $5,000, which is half the normal opening minimum.

The lower opening minimum “gives more people the opportunity to open their own charitable investment account that is invested and grows over time (if enough principle is available) and then have more money to give away than if they had just donated using a credit card or by check. A DAF is a wonderful tool to make your giving easy, to help get your kids and grandkids involved in giving and conversations around giving, family values, and to leave a legacy in the community,” said Sussman.

By having a fund at MN JCF, you could be doing a double, triple or even quadruple mitzvah:

  • Mitzvah #1: 100 percent of what you do through MN JCF is charitable. You are giving to charity by giving to and through your fund.
  • Mitzvah #2: the administrative fee is like a donation that goes to another Jewish non-profit; it supports a local Jewish organization (MN JCF) and stays within the community (instead of funding shareholders or a corporate investment firm’s profits), allowing you to maximize your charitable giving.
  • Mitzvah #3: whenever grants are sent from your fund at MN JCF, they have the word “Jewish” in them, which lets non-Jewish recipients know that the Jewish community cares about and is involved with them.
  • Mitzvah #4: If you choose the Jewish Advocacy Investment Pool investment option for your fund, you are literally investing in your Jewish values. This pool’s investments are aligned with Jewish values.

If you are curious about more reasons to open up a DAF, see this list of 10 other reasons why it can help your or your family’s giving.

MN JCF does not give tax, financial, or legal advice. Please consult your professional adviser(s) regarding your specific circumstances.

MN JCF has many opportunities and events ranging from our Network of Philanthropic Advisors, speaker series, matchmaking, and partnering with a variety of non-profits. If you’d like to learn more about Minnesota Jewish Community MN JCF, please visit mnjcf.org or email [email protected].